M. Night returns, and this time… a family staying in a remote cabin in the woods are approached by four people: Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint), who warn them of an imminent apocalypse. The only way to prevent the end of the world is for the family – Eric (Jonathan Groff), his husband Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) – to decide whether to save themselves or the rest of humanity.
This claustrophobic mystery box set-up is perfect for director M. Night Shyamalan, who more recently has lent into low-budget, high-concept horrors (Split, Old) and away from big-budget spectacle. Knock at the Cabin is immediately all the more engaging for its confined setting, and cutting off the characters from the rest of the world helps to create the ambiguity: is Leonard telling the truth? Can the world be ending? And if it is, how can this family prevent it?
A large part of the suspense is down to casting, with Dave Bautista deliberately pushing himself into different kinds of roles and in Knock at the Cabin he commits entirely to Leonard: a character who on the face of things appears to be threatening, but comes across endearing, amiable and not intending to cause any harm. Bautista brings pathos and a gentleness that contrasts with his imposing physicality.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is a real sense that the four intruders are real people with lives beyond that of the narrative, emphasised in some emotive scenes from Nikki Amuka-Bird and Abby Quinn. Rupert Grint‘s Redmond is perhaps the most threatening of the group: a gruff, blunt character whose motives seem more ambiguous. At the centre of the drama are Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge, who make for an endearing couple, albeit with different perspectives of their apocalyptic situation. A series of flashbacks with the two help to add some depth to the characters, although these sometimes feel a little clunky in the overall narrative. The two parents’ on-screen dynamic with Wen – played very well by young actress Kristen Cui – is very believable, providing a much-needed emotional core to the story.
There’s a strong sense of tension all the way through, and an undeniable horror element, but Knock at the Cabin never commits entirely to the latter, instead keeping the emphasis on the suspense and the drama, focusing on the characters’ reactions to the surreal events unfolding around them. There isn’t perhaps the huge twist that some may have expected from M. Night Shyamalan, but the ending reveal is probably the most satisfying conclusion the film could have had, whilst still leaving an element of ambiguity. Despite some clunky moments, this is a great mystery box thriller from Shyamalan (even if fans of the original novel The Cabin at the End of the World may not be happy with some changes in the adaptation), bolstered by a brilliant and entirely committed cast. If you’re looking for a bit of suspense, it’s difficult not to recommend Knock at the Cabin!
You also get over 40 minutes of Special Features, which is always welcome, and includes:
– Deleted Scenes – They Need Some Time / Going to Church / Enjoying the Sun / Leonard Explains
– Chowblaster Infomercial – Extended
– Choosing Wisely: Behind the Scenes of KNOCK AT THE CABIN
– Tools of the Apocalypse
– Drawing a Picture
– Kristen Cui Shines a Light